Service of injunction orders by alternative methods
The Court of Appeal in Mohamed Abdulrahman v Circle 33 Housing Trust Limited (2017) considered whether service of an injunction order through an individual's letterbox was valid service and whether a Judge was entitled to commit the Appellant to prison when the injunction order was breached.
The Respondent, Circle 33 Housing Trust Limited ("Circle"), granted the Appellant Mr Mohamed Abdulrahman ("Mr Abdulrahman") an assured non-shorthold tenancy of a flat. The flat shared a communal front door and communal letterbox with the flat next door. In 2014, Mr Abdulrahman subjected his neighbour to anti-social behaviour which included changing the locks and putting superglue through the lock on the communal door.
In June 2015, Circle applied for, and was granted an injunction order, prohibiting Mr Abdulrahman from engaging in anti-social behaviour, and also including a clause that Mr Abdulrahman was not to block Circle's employees or contractors from accessing the property during reasonable hours to carry out repairs. The injunction order stated that the order should be served on Mr Abdulrahman by inserting it through the communal letterbox and this was done.
In October 2015, Circle applied to commit Mr Abdulrahman to prison for breaching the injunction order when he waived his walking stick and shouted abuse at contractors employed by Circle. Mr Abdulrahman had also refused access to an employee of Circle when they attended the property, having written to Mr Abdulrahman the week before confirming the appointment. Whilst the employee was outside the property, they found an un-opened letter containing the injunction order on the floor.
The Judge found that Mr Abdulrahman had breached the injunction order twice and committed him to prison for 28 days, suspended for two years. Consequently, Mr Abdulrahman appealed against this committal order on the basis that the injunction order had been inadequately served.
The Court of Appeal considered rule 81.8 of the Civil Procedure Rules (CPR), which states in particular that:
(1) In the case of a judgement or order requiring the person not to do an act, the Court may dispense with service of a copy of the judgement or order...if it satisfied that the person has had notice of it -
(a) By being present when the judgment or order was given or made;
The rule goes on to state that the Court may dispense with service if the Court thinks that it is just to do so, it may make an order "in respect of service by an alternative method or at an alternative place".
Applying CPR 81.8, the Court of Appeal stated that the Judge was entitled to dispense with service by the usual route and make an order in respect of service by alternative method or at an alternative place. The Judge had the authority to make an order that the injunction order would be personally served if put through Mr Abdulrahman's letterbox. The Court of Appeal pointed out that Mr Abdulrahman had been in Court when the injunction order had been granted and was aware of the terms of the order.
This case helps clarify the difficulties arising from alternative methods of service of orders and demonstrates that attempts at evading service will not result in the defendant avoiding a committal order.